Tough Times Make Tough People
REAL LIFE in Richmond, Virginia that helps men and women work through issues related to incarceration, homelessness, and addiction.

Tough Times Make Tough People

Though today’s Positive Pollies suggest that you celebrate the good times and shut-up about the bad, I believe the opposite is true. The more you talk about the tough stuff, the lighter its grip becomes on your mind, body, and soul. 

Recently, I had the honor of delivering a keynote speech at a fundraising gala for REAL LIFE, a remarkable organization in Richmond, Virginia that helps men and women work through issues related to incarceration, homelessness, and addiction. 

During my speech, I wanted the REAL LIFE participants, or “lifers” as they’re called, to know that they shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about how they landed at this juncture in their life. Afterall, how they got here is part of their journey, part of their story, and part of their strength. And I believe turning struggles into strength should be celebrated.

The same goes for you. If you’ve been through some tough shit in your life, that means you’re tough, right? As a society, it’s time to normalize having, and talking about, pain and struggles. They are some of the greatest teachers we have.

My good friend Lynda has an interesting perspective on valuing and respecting your pain. She is deeply spiritual and seems to possess an almost magical ability to rise above the trials, tribulations, and discord that would overwhelm so many of us.

What’s Lynda’s superpower? She believes that the purpose of life can be summarized in one word: growth.

Lynda taught me that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and our only goal on earth is to learn lessons and grow. And when do we learn the greatest lessons of our lives? When we are down, not up. When we make mistakes, when the cards are stacked against us, when we believe we can’t survive our struggles and we survive anyway.   

So, if the purpose of life is to grow, and you grow more during the valleys than the peaks, then maybe it’s time to start appreciating the valleys in our lives. 

They teach us so much. 

For instance, let’s say your parents didn’t love you the way you needed to be loved as a child. How did you get out of that valley? You had to learn to love yourself – a critical life skill that perhaps you would not have learned otherwise.

Now that’s growth! That is the purpose of life. And along the way out of that valley, you learned that self-love, not love from other people, is the path to even higher peaks.

You see, you don’t go through valleys. You grow through them. So, my question to you is this:

●  Can you learn to respect the valleys that have already taught you so much?

●  Can you welcome your next valley, knowing the growth it will bring your way?

●  Can you see that while valleys bring pain, they are also the source of your strength? 

I believe you can. I believe we all can…and should. Afterall, if the purpose of life is to grow, we do not grow from the peaks down. We grow from the valleys up.

While respecting, appreciating, and even welcoming valleys, don’t forget to rest. The energy it takes to grow and overcome is significant. To borrow a quote from my dear friend Sequoia Ross, “Your final rest should not be the only rest you get.” When you’re facing tough times, allow yourself to take a load off. Take that damn nap, already.

Valleys are inescapable. While there are valleys behind you, there are also many more in front of you. So, the next time you face one, changing the questions you ask yourself might change everything. Instead of asking, “Why is this experience happening to me? ask yourself, “How will this experience grow me?” The new mindset will help you notice and appreciate the growth that’s coming your way.

To the incredible men and women of REAL LIFE, plus those who have climbed more valleys than you care to count, you are the true champions of growth. I see you. I respect you. I celebrate you.

Keep going, keep growing.

Katherine Wintsch